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Understanding Suffering

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
February 8, 2022 12:01 am

Understanding Suffering

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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February 8, 2022 12:01 am

There is a purpose for our pain. Today, R.C. Sproul reveals how Christians should understand suffering and how to respond to it well.

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Coming up today on Renewing Your Mind. We have to understand lest we fall into being absolutely undone and astonished whenever affliction hits us, but we are to expected as part of our call this Christians God has called us into a fallen world to minister in the world that is available to, and there's no way that we can never expect to escape this enjoy some food natural instinct is the one from today on Renewing Your Mind. Dorsey school provides a biblical perspective on suffering and how it fits in your lives as Christians will learn that may be a natural response. Hoping to avoid suffering is the one approach several years ago I was invited to give a lecture at covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, and I remember the address that I gave at that time was called the locus not locust like the insect. But the locus of astonishment that is the place where we focus on what is really amazing to us. I pointed out in that address on that occasion that we sing amazing Grace and give lip service to the sense in which we are amazed by grace but I wonder how amazed we really are, where we have become so accustomed to the mercy of God, the patience of God and the grace of God that we begin to take it for granted, and to assume it and then pretty soon to demand it, and so that when he is gracious to us were hardly surprised, but I find that what is most astonishing characteristically to Christians of our day is when they are visited by tragedy or affliction or suffering. Many times the presence of suffering in our life undoes us and brings us to the state of a spiritual crisis is a part of the reason for that is that we here in the culture these ministers who tell us that once you come to Christ all your problems are over and that God doesn't ever will sickness or pain or affliction.

And so that when these things happen to us. We have a crisis of faith. On that occasion in Tennessee. I used a portion of Scripture from the 13th chapter of Luke's gospel as a taking off point for the discussion there in Luke 13 verse one we read this narrative.

There were present at that season. Some who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices and Jesus answered and said to them, do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things I tell you no, but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Were those 18, on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed and do you think that they were worse sinners than all the other men who dwelt in Jerusalem I tell you no, but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. What's going on here is that the people come to Jesus and they're asking this question basically how could God allow these things to happen if God is good.

How can he stand by and let the tower fall upon the heads of innocent people just mining the business walking down the street or allow them to become victims of this savage attack of Pilate's forces remix the blood of the people with the sacrifices were surprised when these things happen and what we may even more surprised that is Jesus response is that if you think that these things happen to these people because they were worse sinners than anybody else. I tell you no, but unless you repent you will likewise perish. Unless our Lord doing here. I think what he's saying to his inquirers. Is this your asking me the wrong question. The question you should be asking is why didn't that temple fall on my head. Why wasn't my blood mixed with the blood of the sacrifices with the Galileans.

Somehow, we assume that God owes it to us to give us a life free of suffering that we have to be careful when we look at this whole question of suffering because though we have this passage here in Luke we know in John chapter 9, the disciples, the question of Jesus about a man who'd been born blind and they say who sin. Was it the man or his parents that this fellow was born with this affliction and what does Jesus say, neither you've come to me with a false dilemma. It wasn't as a punishment to the man and it was as a punishment to the father where the mother it was that the Son of Man may be glorified in this occasion, but the reality of suffering is something we all have to deal with and we deal with it in a pagan world and part of the problem that we experience in dealing with this particular difficult problem is that so often we hear views of pain and suffering that are pagan views of pain and suffering and we need to understand the difference between a Christian understanding of suffering and pagan views of suffering in the short time that we have today. I'm going to mention for different varieties of views of suffering that have been popular one time or another in the pagan world and the first one is what I'm going to call the docent take view. Call it that the ascetic view because it is the view that views suffering and pain as an illusion. This is the view of suffering that is basically one of the Nile says that suffering is just a matter of the mind. It's not real and we need to understand that it's simply an illusion, but it really is a philosophical discussion, it has little value to somebody on the hospital bed to say that suffering is not real because we all know that Israel there is such a thing as pain. There is such a thing as sorrow and it is no solution to the problem to deny the reality of it. A second way in which pagans have dealt with the problem of suffering and evil is found in what I call the historical classic Stoic view and you hear the axioms of Stoicism creeping into our popular culture.

When you hear such statements as keep a stiff upper lip or the let anything get you down. The Stoics believed that we live in a world that is controlled by material forces and these material forces operate according to fixed deterministic laws and we have absolutely no control over what happens to us in this environment, what happens to us is our faith or our karma. It is just the result of these impersonal forces out there and we have no freedom to determine our own destiny.

The only place where we do have the ability to exercise our freedom and to impact the state of our existence is by directing our attitudes or our emotions with respect to things that befall us. That is, I can't stop being hit by a truck this afternoon.

If that's the way it's going to be, but I do have some power to decide how I'm going to react to it internally and so what the Stoics sought to achieve with what they called philosophical and Iraqi war, peace of mind. Maybe never heard the term at Iraqi accept is a brand name for a tranquilizer in the pharmaceutical war, but the Greek word is the word that means peace of mind whereby nothing disturbs our equanimity. Now the Stoics also sought to reach that state by practicing diligently the art of what they called in perturbed ability that is you practice controlling your emotions to such a degree that nothing will perturb you. Nothing will upset you and so you Marshall. These internal resources to get a thick skin or hide over your feelings so that if you do enter into an arena of pain or of affliction you won't let it get you down. You keep the stiff upper lip and merit in quietness and so the third way in which pagans have sought to deal with suffering historically is through a method expounded by the Stoics chief rivals in their day the hedonist and the hedonistic view is defined in this way hedonism historically is that philosophy of life that describes or defines the good in terms of the elimination of pain and the acquisition of pleasure in the ancient world. There were two different types of hedonists in their philosophical orientation, one that I'll call the crass hedonists and the other group. I'll call the more refined hedonists. Of course that viewpoint either in its crude form or in its refined form still addresses people today we still have Epicureans and we have a culture that has been drenched in saturated in the philosophy of hedonists like there's never been a time in American history where we've had such a high rate of alcoholism and of unbridled sexual behavior and intoxication and addiction to hard drugs, and most of the psychologists and sociologists look at this phenomenon of our day, which we have given ourselves over to the hedonistic pursuit of pleasure. Why, in many cases because of a response to an extremely negative view of life. It's not an accident that suicide is the highest ranking cause of death among certain age groups in this nation because people are taught now and bombarded by all kinds of sources telling them that they have emerged from the slime. Their cosmic accidents. Their life is meaningless. There suffering is therefore meaningless and so they try to dull the pain and the ache of the anxiety of being hurled into a meaningless existence by seeking relief in the stupor of pleasure.

Nothing new about that just the dimensions are different. We remember Paul when he addressed the Corinthians, and gave his magnificent defense of the resurrection when he was going through that discussion.

At one point he said if Christ is not raised. Let us do what let us eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. See, that's the creed of the hedonists. Sooner or later tragedy death, pain, suffering and affliction going to get me so I only go through life once I'm in a grab all the gusto I can get right now and I'm in a fill up on pleasure because tomorrow I die. In the meantime it's party time and so this approach to hedonism in many ways is motivated by a fear of and a desire to escape from the pangs of suffering we talk of those who drown their sorrows in a bottle, and perhaps the most popular psychoanalysts of our culture are the bartenders that are found on every street and every metropolitan area because are a lot of people who are unhappy, who are suffering and or and pain and are desperately trying to find soulless and relief from their pain any way that they can will. These are just some of the ways in which people cope with the reality of pain and suffering. Obviously, the biblical view of suffering is on a collision course with these views because the one overarching principle of the biblical view of suffering is this that suffering for the Christian is never an exercise in futility.

It is never an exercise in futility. But that suffering is used by God for redemptive purposes. Among his people and we are told where to put the locus of astonishment were told by Peter were told by James that we ought not to think that it is something strange when we are called upon to suffer because the Christian faith is born in suffer the way of salvation is the via de la Rosa the way of sadness the way of the cross and Christ himself promises his people in the world you will have tribulation you will have afflictions, Paul says that he fills up in his own body. The afflictions that have not yet been completed in the body of Christ and his church that we all are called to participate in the sorrows of Christ, who was called a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And there's a difference between that and stoicism on monetizing a go into the home of Christian folks were somebody has just died, and people feel like they're not allowed to weep. They're not allowed to express any kind of sorrow or morning or grief.

At that they're supposed to be Stoics and we won't allow them to grief will say to them that that's an act of unbelief or something like that is if when Jesus went to the place of Lazarus after he had died knowing what he was going to do.

Still, he entered into the grief of the moment and our Lord himself went. He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief in the Scriptures make it plain that grief is a legitimate human emotion and there is nothing sinful about mourning the loss of a loved one, that emotion of grief. The emotion of sorrow and of itself is perfectly legitimate. It can easily become a spirit of self-pity or bitterness, but those are distortions of legitimate emotions and the legitimate emotion of sadness and sorrow are not only permitted by Scripture, but in many cases commended when Paul speaks of the great benefit of our justification whereby were adopted and the fellowship of the family of God.

He says being justified. Therefore, you have what peace with God access into his presence and then he goes on to say, and in the midst of this because of your relationship to God you are able to endure tribulation knowing the tribulation works patient's and patient's character, and these things will not leave us ashamed so that God uses tribulation he uses our pain, not simply to punish us but to polish us to sanctify us, in many cases we go into the refiners fire so that God will remove the draws from our lives draw us close to himself and in the process of pain and suffering. We are made more like Christ and then Paul reminds us that the sufferings of this present time, but for a moment, they are not the final answer and that the sufferings that we are called to endure in this world are worthy to be compared with the glorious things that God has stored up in heaven for those who love so in one sense are suffering becomes a bridge to glory. That doesn't mean that we are supposed to go out and look for suffering and the say thank you Lord.

Every time you the sky falls on our heads. There are people who try to do that and that can be a form of denial.

They can be more the ascetic that it is Christian will rejoice that we have a headache will rejoice that we have cancer eating away at us, what we do rejoice in is the presence of God in the midst of our pain, but again we have to understand lest we fall into being absolutely undone and astonished whenever affliction hits us that we are to expect it is part of our call this Christians that God has called us into a fallen world to minister into a world that is avail of tears and it's a place of pain and there's no way that we can ever expect to escape. Now suppose I'm afflicted with suffering. Why why my flick.

There could be several reasons.

It may be that God needs to correctly and that it is part of his corrective wrath to make me sick or to bring me low. He does that their manifold examples of that in Scripture. How did Miriam get leprosy, God gave her leprosy to bring her to repentance. But we can't jump to the conclusion that every time we get sick, or every time we suffer, that is, there's a direct correlation between our disobedience and the pain that were experiencing again Job is exhibit a to refute that argument.

Job was more righteous than anybody else, and yet he suffered more than anybody else, and it would've been a terrible mistake to assume that there was a direct proportional relationship between the degree of his guilt and the degree of his pain mustn't do that so we don't always know we don't have to we have to know is him because when Job demanded an answer for his pain asked God to speak to him and explain it to them, and God finally appeared to Job and interrogated Job for several chapters.

What answer to Job get from God he didn't get what God didn't say to Job your suffering this pain for this this this and this.

The only answer that Joe got to his affliction in the final analysis was God himself. The presence of God, and in effect with God Hussein's Job. Here I am, I am with you. Trust me when people say trust me time to run, but when God says, trust me, it's time to trust when we finish by reminding you that our God never promised any of us that we would never go into the valley of the shadow of death. What he did promise us was that he would go with us today, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for thou art with me thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. We have the good Shepherd. We have his presence.

We have his consolation with us and we were removed from the arena of pain, but that we are a pound in the arena. As Dr. RC Sproul from his series dealing with difficult problems.

We're highlighting this series all week here on Renewing Your Mind addressing some of the most common issues that we all deal with this Christians including anxiety, guilt, forgiveness, and anger were making the series available to you for your donation of any amount to look at your ministries. Six lessons on one DVD. You can call us at 800-435-4343 or if you prefer to donate online. You can do that at Renewing Your we learn today that all of us deal with suffering.

At one point or another in our lives member in the middle of the storm finding the right perspective can be difficult. This series provides helpful context and facing grief. So if you're in that store more here walking with a friend who is contact us today with your donation of any amount and we will send you the series dealing with difficult problems. Our phone number again is 800-435-4343 in our web address Renewing Your the kinds of difficult circumstances were talking about can come in various forms through death, divorce, rebellious children are devastating health news but are calling indeed are our vocation is to honor God in the circumstances. Let me commend another leader ministries resource to you which table talk I type the word grief into the search bar. For example, and this is a sampling of the articles that you will find available the reality of disappointment. Why do bad things happen to good people and adversity leads to glory any of these articles will be helpful as you go through trying times would also like to offer you a free three month trial subscription to table talk to make a request.

Just go to try table tomorrow.

Drs. will address is another difficulty we face in life. What do we do with a guilty conscience category table just go away, but we can deal with and we can deal with it biblically.

We hope you'll join us tomorrow for Renewing Your Mind with our six

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